Fight stepped up over Wolverhampton Central Baths

The battle to save Wolverhampton Central Baths stepped up a notch as council bosses agreed to take a 6,000 signature petition into account when they set the budget for 2014/15.

At a packed meeting at Wolverhampton Civic Centre last night, leisure chief Elias Mattu said a new operating model was being looked at to try and make the baths more commercially viable.

Last year the authority announced it would be forced to close the Bath Street centre unless a private operator could be found, allowing it to break even and axe its £316,000 subsidy.

But Councillor Mattu said the council were continuing to work with other parties including Sport England, the Amateur Swimming Association and the University of Wolverhampton, in an effort to safeguard the centre’s future.

He said: “I will not leave any stone unturned in my efforts to save facilities that matters to the people of Wolverhampton. Since June we have been working with other parties to develop a business plan to try and make all our leisure facilities work on a commercial level.

Adrian Turner, secretary of Wolverhampton Unison, said: “Every service in the city has been impacted and we want the council to stand up to central government against these cuts.”

“We have been involved in the campaign to save Central Baths. The baths are a vital part of the city and it is unfair to expect people to go without this service.”

Carol Bailey, who is leading the campaign to keep the baths open, said she was encouraged by the response to the petition.

“It is clear this is a cross-party issue and everyone in the meeting tonight showed their support for our efforts to save the baths.

“I believe the council are putting a lot of work into finding a way to keep the baths open.

“The fact they have taken the petition on board, along with the business plan, gives me reasons to feel positive.

“The problem is the baths have been losing money, so it is crucial for the council to find a way to make the centre profitable.

“Bringing on board bodies such as the Amateur Swimming Association can only help our cause.”

Ms Bailey said losing the baths would put an additional financial strain on the local authority’s already stretched coffers.

“Lack of exercise can cause illness, depression and dementia, so by keeping fit people stay out of hospitals and doctor’s surgeries,” she said.

But she warned that even if the baths survive the current round of spending cuts, it may only signal a stay of execution.

“My big concern is if the council go for the plan, how long will it last?” she said.

“With other cuts on the horizon we don’t want to have to go through all this again in a few years’ time.”

Tettenhall Wightwick councillor Wendy Thompson was less impressed with the council’s pledge to try to save the baths.

“It is very sad to say but I don’t think there is any chance of the baths surviving,” she said.

“When the budget is set there will be no money for the baths, regardless of any business plan. They should be doing everything in their power to save them but instead they are flogging them off.”

Before the meeting, more than 70 members of Unison gathered outside council chambers to protest against cuts in public services.

The fate of the baths is due to be decided at meeting on March 11.

Comments for: "Fight stepped up over Wolverhampton Central Baths"

bobwolf101

It is was right in your face like the one at Bentley Bridge I would say go ahead and keep it. But it isn't and in my view it should be closed. It clearly is not in a place to be economically sufficient.

Had they replaced Bushbury Baths instead we needn't be in this position.

bobwolf101

Meant to read if it was

centralbaths

...'not in a place to be economically sufficient' are you talking geography? Central Baths is 10 minutes' walk from the City centre, where thousands of people work - many of whom swim in their lunch break or on their way to/from work. Plus Central Baths has easy access to the ring road, which is great for people travelling longer distances to attend galas - we have hundreds of petition signatures from residents of sixteen counties who competed in Wolverhampton between October and December 2013, from as far away as Kent, Northants and Wales.

I'm told the Bentley Bridge centre was intended to replace the Bushbury baths. However lots of Bushbury and Oxley residents swim at Central Baths (and have signed the petition) because it's only one bus journey instead of two. And many staff at New Cross Hospital swim at Central Baths although Bentley Bridge is much nearer, because Central Baths offers more opportunities for lane swimming.

I'm not knocking the Bentley Bridge centre. Swimming is a fantastic way to keep fit, and the only sport which saves lives - so I believe the more pools we have, the better. But it's worth noting that Bentley Bridge is also subsidised by the Council through annual payments to DC Leisure (who run the centre). The Council turned down my Freedom Of Information request last November about how much they (we! taxpayers) contribute to DC Leisure: all I know is that the amount has gone up this year due to rising fuel costs.

I do think it's crucial that ALL Wolverhampton's sports facilities become more economically self-sufficient (by the way, NONE of them break even). But prevention is better - and cheaper - than cure, and I would rather my tax funded a £316,000 subsidy which helps people keep fit and active than a £56million black hole which is the current cost of physical inactivity (in health costs and loss of productivity) to Wolverhampton.

The Council face lots of tough decisions due to huge cuts in Government funding, and they need to balance the books. But is money really the 'bottom line'? If a child were to drown in one of Wolverhampton's many canals because there was no pool near enough for them to learn to swim, how would you cosy that - economically? It doesn't bear thinking about!

centralbaths

typo: how would you COST that (sorry!)

charlie17

Mr Adrian Turner the Central Baths are not a vital part of the City , that is reserved for services that are used by the majority. It is a fact that not enough people use the Central Baths now and as I have pointed out before if the 6000 people who signed the petition went just once a week at £2.50 for a 2 hour session the revenue stream would be double the £316,000 council subsidy. Long ago when a significant number of houses did not have baths or showers you could use "the vital part" argument but things have moved on. I have not been to the Central Baths for many years but do not expect it has changed very much. Let's get private enterprise involved they will install a wave machine, slides, saunas, steam rooms, jacuzzi and many other features to attract the families not just the few people who want to swim lengths.

charlie17

It is not a vital part of City life, otherwise enough people would be using it to pay the cost of running it and subsidies would not be necessary. A vital part of City life is something needed and used by the majority. No council is really equipped to run, what should be a profit making operation. Lease it out to private enterprise the rent would help save some services that are more of a priority to more of the residents. It would be interesting to know the total number of visits to the Central Baths in 2013